Arkansas Workforce Services says Arkansas workers will get no more than three weeks of an added $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit where some states have gotten six weeks. Also, those three weeks are not assured.
I asked a series of questions to Workforce Services today about the so-called Lost Wages Assistance program following reports that states have begun receiving word that the money is running out and won’t provide benefits originally expected. The Washington Post reported:
In recent days, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the agency funding the unemployment aid program, said the benefit was scheduled to last for a maximum of six weeks from the beginning of August. The benefit has been going to workers in 48 states, Guam and D.C.
The agency has told states including Texas, Iowa, Montana, Tennessee and New Hampshire that the week ending Sept. 5 was the last covered by the additional benefit. Some states appear to have received even less. New Mexico, for example, told residents that they could expect only four weeks of payments — assistance lasting only through Aug. 22.
Arkansas is even worse off.
Governor Hutchinson recently announced the approval of Arkansas’s application to participate in the program, which requires a state match.
Arkansas, however, was late to the game and not approved until Aug. 26. Louisiana, for example, was approved Aug. 15. Arkansas said its payments began Thursday.
Some states, such as Louisiana, got six weeks worth of the benefits, which are on top of other unemployment benefits pegged to wages. Louisiana workers got their sixth and last week of the additional $300 for the week ending Sept. 5, for a total of $1,800.
As it stands, qualifying Arkansans will get no more than $900, for weeks ending Aug. 1, 8 and 15 only and then only “as long as funding is available,” said Zoe Calkins of Workforce Services.
Is there enough available to pay all Arkansas claimants for those three weeks? I don’t know.
To my question about reports that the money was being exhausted. Calkins responded:
FEMA grants for lost wages supplemental payments will continue until any of these conditions are met:
- FEMA has expended $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF).
- The DRF balance reaches $25 billion.
- Enactment of legislation providing supplemental Federal unemployment compensation, or similar compensation, for unemployed or partially employed individuals due to COVID-19.
- The program end date of no later than December 27, 2020.
FEMA grant funding to each state will be based on the state’s projected estimate of the amount of lost wages supplemental payments to be made per week, the estimate of eligible claimants, and a planning estimate for the state, inclusive of FEMA’s budgetary authority.
Unemployed workers must receive at least $100 in regular unemployment benefits to qualify for the extra payment. In Arkansas. Many in Arkansas won’t qualify and the state is offering some assistance for poor custodial parents with “demonstrated needs.”
The state has more information on the program here. It covers both conventional unemployment and payments to self-employed.
A subject worth discussion by the governor at his weekly spin-and-grin.